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Testing Ground: Melanie Abrahams

25 November 15 words: James Walker
Need advice on making Arts applications or bids for funding or sponsorship? You need to apply to this mentoring scheme sharpish...
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Photo: The Guardian

Tell us a bit about yersen...
I have grown up with words and grown into words, and am fortunate to finally be able to make a living out of words. After countless jobs working for 'The Man'.  I produce, curate, do a range of public speaking engagements, and look out for a wide range of writers and artists, championing their work and talent in a variety of ways.  To do all of this involves running independent businesses and being freelance.  I shape-up and scale-down to suit the work, so that words and literature remain centrestage.
Give us an example of some mentoring programmes you've been involved in recently...
For a project called The Final Stage which was in partnership with the poet Jean 'Binta' Breeze, we mentored ten East Midlands based poets including Andy 'Mulletproof' Graves, Joe Coghlan, Panya Banjoko, Michael Brome and Aly Stoneman.   Jean focused on writing and editing support and I offered careers advice and one-to-ones on areas such as touring your work nationally, building influential contacts with venues and festivals, staging a one-person show etc.
Why is mentoring important? 
Mentoring is important, and helpful, because when it's good, it will be bespoke and responsive to what a person most needs at that time.  At the very least even if it's not quite what you need, in that the person being mentored feels that it's not sufficiently resonant in its response, it can offer a helpful sounding-board.  Someone who has made time to listen to you and be there. 
Can you give us an example of advice you've given to artists or problems you've helped them resolve? 
Examples of advice I've given to artists / practitioners include advice on making applications or bids for funding or sponsorship including who they might apply to, thinking about what might make their application stand out.  In general it will be about working with them to identify their strengths and ways to bring that out in what they do, or want to do.
For example, recently with the poet Sureshot, we had mentoring sessions on how his work in prisons might be shaped into education activities that build on his skills as an writer and workshop facilitator who understands the HMP environment, and is also a professional artist who can share his knowledge with those who have no access to this sector.  We looked at this practically as well as generally to come up with a plan, activities etc.
What types of people do you mentor?
Because of my interests and a scarcity of provision, I mentor artists from all backgrounds and arts professionals as well as small to medium-sized creative businesses. 
What’s Testing Ground and who should apply?
Testing Ground is a live event at which you can receive feedback, advice and support for a project or idea you wish to develop from a panel of experts.  The panel will cover the creative industries, areas such as marketing, publishing, technology and social media, business support, producing, professional development, local, regional and national knowledge etc.
It's for anyone working in the arts, whether artist or creative professional, who is at emerging to mid-career level.  The age range spans 12 years to senior - we're encouraging young people involved in organisations and projects to apply - so we have a range of ages.
Is Testing Ground just in the Midlands? 
There will be at least three events at New Art Exchange which covers the Midlands area, Pop Brixton which covers London, East and South/South East regions and the Bluecoat which covers the North.  This is a pilot and the partner venues and I are in agreement that we'll welcome attendees located anywhere who want to come and take part, and that we'll see how it goes with a view to running more events in the future.
If artists want to submit a proposal what does this involve? 
We welcome proposals from artists and creative professionals up to 30 November, one-side of A4 outlining
Your idea or project
What you most wish to develop, achieve or learn from your idea or project; the perceived complications and opportunities
Some of the issues you would like the panel to address
You can find out more information and book a place to Testing Ground here

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